When you opened your restaurant business, you probably imagined serving savory food to happy guests who left with satisfied stomachs and wrote raving reviews.

You probably didn’t imagine having to master the economics of strategically managing portion sizes and controls to cut costs, determining effective pricing, and improving restaurant cash flow as part of your happy restaurant business picture.

This is one in a series of blog posts outlining steps you can take to ensure that the day’s receipts reflect profits and increased restaurant cash flow at the end of every day.

Understand the importance of standard portions

There are many important reasons to establish standard portions for every restaurant menu item.

It creates a benchmark

Standard portions create a benchmark against which you can compare actual results of your portion control systems.  This is a valuable tool to use for analyzing your financial results.

Your food has consistent quality

By controlling the ingredients when preparing every item on your restaurant menu, you and your customers will know that your food and drinks taste the same every time.

You’ll know what a portion costs

Standard portion sizes allow you to develop accurate expected costs for what’s on your restaurant menu.  Portion cost metrics can be used for a variety of financial parameters in your restaurant business.

You can cut costs of food and labor 

When your employees know the right amounts of ingredients and portion sizes for each restaurant menu item, that will help you manage your food costs. Restaurants tend to have many menu items with a relatively low margin.  Even small increases to the ingredients or portion sizes can cause unexpected and significant increases in food costs over a short period of time

Standard portions increase employee efficiency. Routine prep work can often be delegated to less experienced staff members when portions and ingredients are standardized.

Your customer’s expectations are met

When you have a system in place to ensure ingredient and portion control, you’ll increase the likelihood that your customers will be satisfied with what they’re served.

Develop standard portions

Once you’ve created the recipes for the restaurant menu items you want to offer, then you can determine standard portions.  Or maybe you want to implement changes to menu items in order to cut costs going forward.  Be sure to consider the following factors:

Develop a recipe file

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have your restaurant be known for signature items or specialty cocktails?  Standard portions make that possible, and a recipe file should be established and maintained for each menu item.  Specifications for each recipe should include ingredient measurements as well as trim, grade, and fat content to ensure quality and consistency.

A picture is worth a thousand words

Many successful restaurants take photographs of all menu items, laminate them with copies of each recipe, and post them prominently in the kitchen.  That way, both cooks and servers know exactly what should be in each item and on each plate before it is served to the customer.


If you compare your recipe with other similar recipes, you may find that your recipe costs more.  In that case, adjusting recipe proportions or ingredients may lower the cost without diminishing quality or taste.  Small adjustments throughout your restaurant menu can markedly increase restaurant cash flow.

Customer acceptance

If you’ve discovered that it’s necessary to modify portion sizes on your restaurant menu items, you’ll need to transition carefully.  Your patrons will need to accept the changes in order for your efforts to succeed.  You can increase customer acceptance by using a smaller plate when reducing portion sizes. You can also change portion sizes in conjunction with launching a new restaurant menu.

Hire a restaurant accounting pro

Don’t have time as a restaurant owner to navigate all that must be done to cut costs and improve your restaurant cash flow?  Give Accounting Innovations a call for a free consultation to see how we can help you create a financially successful restaurant, something we’ve been doing for HOW MANY years.